Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Voters Should Do Away with Term Limits

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Voters Should Do Away with Term Limits

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

In May 1991, the Times-Union editorial board opined on a proposed referendum to limit Jacksonville City Council members to two consecutive terms.

This was in the heyday of the "Eight is Enough" movement aimed at Congress, state legislatures and city halls.

"The two-term limitation on Jacksonville's City Council is the political equivalent of a mirage," the editorial said.

"It looks good from a distance, but the closer you get, the less substance it has."

Later that same month, a much younger me wrote a column about the proposed term limits for council members.

"Hear! Hear!

"Eight years is enough for anyone on the council.

"Limiting terms will lessen the power of incumbency and encourage more and better qualified people to get involved in the process.

"This sounds radical, but it might even allow us to return to the concept of citizen-legislators instead of professional politicians."

During the intervening quarter of a century, I've spent a lot of time watching the City Council work.

I was wrong about term limits, and the Times-Union editorial was right.

City Councilman Matt Schellenberg now wants voters to have a chance to decide whether to keep term limits for council members and also for the city's constitutional officers and School Board members.

The knee-jerk reaction of some will be that voters have already answered those questions.

The fact is the turnout in May 1991 was pathetic when limiting the terms of council members was decided.

The glamour races of mayor and sheriff had already been decided in the primaries.

Of the city's 314,654 registered voters, only 64,957 - 20 percent - bothered to go to the polls.

The referendum passed overwhelmingly with 82 percent in favor, but that's 82 percent of only 20 percent of the registered voters.

And if once voters have spoken, it's forever and ever established, those who imbibe would still be drinking illegal whiskey and beer today. …

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